In theory, working with caterers should be easier than working with other venues, especially since events are typically planned in advance. This allows opportunity to plan for necessary dietary accommodations such as food allergies.
As I mentioned in my November newsletter, our family is in the midst of attending four separate catered events this fall in three different states. These events have either utilized or will soon necessitate my intervention. I consider them a great opportunity to exercise my Food Allergy Etiquette.
#1 Bat Mitzvah – My intervention was minimal. I received an e-mail from our host getting me directly in touch with the caterer. Coincidentally a cousin of the Bat Mitzvah girl had the exact same allergies as my daughter. The children’s buffet would not be safe, so instead the caterer agreed to have a plate of chicken tenders, pasta, and perfectly plain peas available. When we arrived at the event, I alerted the maître d’ as to whom my daughter was. She was able to eat some fruit as an appetizer. They plated the items we communicated about in advance; they brought them out to my daughter and a similar plate for the cousin while I was sitting at the adult table. Everything was seamless and perfect!
#2 Bar Mitzvah – The mom of the bar mitzvah boy called me to say she spoke with the caterer. The kids were having Chinese food which was being cooked in a kitchen unfamiliar to the caterer, so he could not guarantee cross contact safety. Luckily our daughter is no longer as sensitive. I will write more about this improvement in a future blog, but we are still avoiding dairy and mustard. At the event, the hostess made seating cards with M&M’s in a shallow box. I was so impressed that our hostess thought of using sour patch kids instead of M&M’s in the special one for my allergic daughter. This was so thoughtful! Our daughter was able to eat mini hot dogs for appetizer and beef teriyaki with rice for her main dish. We needed to compromise somewhat on dessert because they had an ice cream bar. Luckily all the fixings were placed away from the ice cream and my daughter was able to eat the non-dairy candy. Plus I brought her an allergy free brownie. The night was an unbelievable success!
#3 Thanksgiving – We were to eat our turkey family style at a restaurant. I called and spoke with the caterer in advance. I was informed that the turkey and all the fixings had butter in it, but they would be happy to accommodate by making steamed carrots, pasta and allergy free turkey for our daughter. When we arrived, our daughter was able to eat the bread. We asked for the carrots and string beans as an appetizer. They were happy to accommodate and even went above and beyond to provide her with a 2nd set of carrots and string beans when we asked. This was especially nice since our daughter chose not to eat the string beans. However, trouble arose when the main course came out. For safety reasons our daughter is used to being served first, but this time the family style platters came out first. The turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and squash platters were passed before our daughter and since everything had butter on it, she could not eat it. Then her plate came out. It was a plate of 6 pieces of turkey covered in plastic wrap. It obviously came straight from the microwave. This caused an emotional response with tears. Anything else that was offered instead was not suitable. She wanted what we had and I don’t blame her! Honestly the food put before her was white and looked ugly compared with everyone else’s choices.
To resolve this issue, I explained that most of the food wasn’t really that good. Honestly it wasn’t! It just looked good since it was so colorful. The squash had some kind of spice in it that I didn’t even like and I normally like squash. I asked them to take away the white, ugly looking turkey and they put some butter free sweet potatoes before her. Luckily she calmed down ate some of the sweet potatoes and was offered a special cupcake from Grandma for dessert.
A key take away from this last example proves that despite our best efforts, it’s impossible to control everything including emotional responses from our kids. Thankfully we are able to continue living our normal, happy lifestyle while still avoiding accidental exposures. Communicating early and often is always a preferred and effective way to practice your Food Allergy Etiquette.
We still have one more catered family event before the end of this year, a wedding in Philly. I have yet to communicate with the caterer. Stay tuned for news on our exciting adventures!